Modern is a big format with lots of decks and strategies. If you’re trying to get into the format, it can be very daunting to figure out not only what all these cards do but what deck you could pick. That’s before you even think about the elephant in the room: bannings. Lots of Modern players are worried about picking up a deck only for it to get banned. While we can never be 100% certain a deck won’t get banned, we are going to go over three decks today that we can assume with high certainty won’t get banned, unless something unpredictably strong joins the format. No worries about the decks today not being good, these are all decks that win tournaments but are not close to being ban worthy, not due to power level but general safeguards the format has.
Hammer has been one of the best Modern decks since the release of Urza’s Saga. A powerful clock combined with huge mana advantages against lots of decks. Hammer is the best aggro deck in Modern, but also able to go long and pivot to a variety of builds. There’s mono White, Blue-White, Green-White and even some Red-White on occasion. We have even seen some players try Esper (White-Blue-Black). This is to say that buying the core of Hammer means you’re going to have a lot of room to explore and express yourself with spells and adapt to the metagame.
This deck has one card that many players are probably worried about, in Urza’s Saga. This card is incredibly strong, and is a linchpin in artifact strategies. For years those decks leaned on Mox Opal for power, but after its banning the decks fell off, as they were not able to keep up. Urza’s Saga fills the role of being a powerful artifact payoff card that is more fair than most seem to understand. While it does provide multiple big bodies and is able to find the exact artifact your deck might need in multiple spots, it’s very mana intensive and forces players to build their decks in unique and exciting ways. So having it be part of the format is something that we can expect Wizards wants. The other big factor is that this deck is chalk full of creatures and artifacts. Modern is full of cards that absolutely destroy these types of cards. Meaning that Hammer Time will always have powerful checks on the format from cards like Force of Vigor, Fury, and even Solitude. Meaning that if Saga gets banned it won’t be because of Hammer, and Hammer is the best dedicated Saga deck right now.
Hammer is the deck for the aggressive player who wants to get into modern. Decks like Burn will also never get banned and might be more straightforward, however the explosive draws Hammer has while backed up with a great fair plan. Which makes it the best choice for anyone who loves to beat down and is getting into Modern.
When playing this deck you can always wiggle your way out of any situation and you can build your sideboard for any metagame.This deck is incredibly appealing to both Spike and Midrange players for everything mentioned, however it’s also balanced out by being fairly low power. While you do have Ragavan draws, which we will cover soon, the deck doesn’t get many free wins and often involves you playing incredibly well in order to be in a position to maximize all your fair cards and make proper trades. Modern is a format that rewards mastery, but this deck demands it. Early on you will lose lots of games with Murktide because you are not fighting over the proper cards in each match up. You’re going to touch the stove a lot in a lot of matches as you play this deck. However it’s incredibly rewarding if you put the time in and master the deck.
Ragavan, the monkey in the room. You might be reading this and thinking “Mason, how can you say Ragavan is safe from banning?” Well once again, long term I can’t say anything with 100% certainty. If a few years ago you told people that Colossus Hammer was going to be in one of the best Modern decks a lot of players would have scoffed. Cards get added and things change. However, Ragavan does a lot of good in the format. First it gives fair midrange decks a chance to compete with unfair decks, and it forces players to play with both creatures and creature removal. Killing a 2/1 is very easy in modern, but you have to give it some respect. This helps course correct the format from devolving to things like turn two and three combo decks that never interact, as a Ragavan with a counter spell is often enough to beat a lot of these decks. Ragavan is strong but only in spots where you protect it with everything you’ve got, and Modern lacks that without Ragavan. It also creates unique and exciting games. Getting to play with your opponent’s cards creates unique and exciting games of Modern, in ways normally not seen! So between being checked easily and thinking about the play patterns it adds, I think it’s safe from a banning.
Murktide is the Midrange deck in Modern. No deck in the format can adapt to different things and play that tried in true midrange games like Murktide, sadly not even Jund.
This is the combo deck on the list today. Living End, unlike our last two decks, is not highly customizable. While there are Blue and non-Blue versions of the deck, the Blue ones have proven they are the strongest by a wide margin time and time again.
However, that isn’t a bad thing. It just means your main deck isn’t going to change much, which is great when you’re first starting out! You don’t have to worry about metagaming, you just come with your deck and do your thing.
With this deck you just cycle a bunch, then cast a Cascade card to find Living End and put a ton of power on board. That’s the whole deck. You will focus a lot of your thoughts when playing this deck on how you will maneuver around the opponent’s interaction and hate cards post board. This allows you to learn about the format while honing your craft.
I mentioned before how your main deck doesn’t change. It’s basically locked in. Your sideboard on the other hand is a different story. You have a few cards you will always have some number of in the form of Force of Vigor, Foundation Breaker, Subtlety, Mystical Dispute, and Endurance. However, the number of each card will vary, and you will change based on what others are doing in the format to stop your combo. For example, if Drannith Magistrate is a popular card you might want more Dismembers and less Mystical Disputes. Small changes like that are how you get the max value out of deck building. However, you can just buy the list I linked here and be good to go in most tournaments for the next year.
This deck is very strong, very consistent, and just absolutely destroys parts of the metagame. So why is it safe to be left alone? Well to be honest it’s a few things. First it’s a graveyard deck, only artifacts have more hate in the format than the graveyard does. Every color has multiple cards they can play to beat up graveyard decks. It’s also a turn three combo that when done on turn three sometimes isn’t even that strong. While you can do things like evoke and Street Wraith to help cheat on only having so many ways to put creatures into the graveyard, the sooner you do your combo, the weaker it is. So it naturally selects for itself. Don’t let this scare you off the deck though, it is very good.
If you’re a combo player this is the choice for a safe and strong deck to pick up. Your games are all very similar, but the way you choose to play around hate will lead to your success. We have seen players dominate with this deck despite loads of hate all year, and that won’t change anytime soon.
Hopefully this helps get you into Modern. This format is incredibly wide and has so much going on but the fun part is that there is so much you will get to experience and learn for the first time. So don’t let the daunting nature of the format scare you. Everyone who plays it had to learn it at some point and most people will be happy to help you! So go out there and enjoy Modern!
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.